Studio Art Student Brings Back Passion for Transformative Art from International Program

Alex Vonhof, a Studio Art senior at Michigan State University, was selected for the inaugural international class of the Ars Electronica Festival University in Linz, Austria, where he spent several weeks engaging in the transformative arts program, gaining hands-on experience with trend-forward techniques, and bringing back a better understanding of where arts — and the world’s future — are heading. 

Alex Vonhof (far right) and teammates Marc Galvez and Egemen Ertugrul deliver their final presentation at the closing event at the Ars Electronica Festival University.

Global, Hands-On Experience

“This program opened my mind to the possibilities of what art can be,” Vonhof said. “And that is extremely valuable for my studies in intermedia and my art practice moving forward.” 

In partnership with Johannes Kepler Universität in Linz, Austria, the Ars Electronica Festival University invited students from around the world to define transformational strategies that address global challenges, through interdisciplinary lectures, workshops, and a final collaborative project by the participants. 

Alex Vonhof painting with a drone using a Wacom tablet at the Ars Electronica Festival University.

“This program went beyond art,” Vonhof said. “Within my workshop on drones and swarm behavior, we had deep dives into the societal and artistic potentials of drones, led by leading researchers at the Ars Electronica Futurelab.”

This program opened my mind to the possibilities of what art can be.

Alex Vonhof

Through his sessions, Vonhof and his teammates learned the applications of drones that the Futurelab had already tested, discussed potential future applications of these technologies, and gained an understanding of how their system works — the same system that powered the wheeled robots and drones at the Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

For their final project, Vonhof’s team developed a program to control the drones with the movement of their hands, combining tech, art, and movement studies.

Alex Vonhof recording his group’s final video presentation.

“The program was incredibly impactful and, in many ways, shaped my view of what the future will look like,” Vonhof said. “It also allowed me to make a network of connections that spans 40 countries and many disciplines, from computer science to the arts. In the art world now and in my studies, I am seeing the interaction of many disciplines and media, so having a network of people involved in many fields is extremely important in terms of future collaboration, projects, and career opportunities.” 

An Expanding Practice at MSU

This experience also prompted Vonhof to change his concentration within Studio Art from Painting to Electronic Art and Intermedia to better showcase his new perspective on transformative ideas.

“I’m so grateful to have the support and knowledge of the faculty and staff here at the Department of Art, Art History, and Design,” Vonhof said. “Through foundational programs and upper-level studio courses, I feel that I have been consistently challenged to deepen the conceptualization of my work and pushed to learn new skills among many disciplines related to the arts. Most importantly, though, the faculty help to foster my enthusiasm for making art, and art itself. I’ve received constant support from the faculty here to pursue my dreams — and it might sound cheesy — but their encouragement has kept me pushing forward.”

A bird's eye view of a group of people waving with others on Zoom projected on the wall.
The entirety of the Festival University and its coordinators.

Vonhof hopes to continue to expand his art practice within the AAHD Department and would then like to enroll in a graduate program in Europe.

“I’ve wanted to move to Europe for years, and this opportunity and experience proved to me that that is the direction my life needs to go,” Vonhof said. “I’m excited to continue my journey, and thankful to have my MSU experiences grounding my practice.”

To learn more, visit Alex Vonhof’s website and the Ars Electronica Festival University website